civil service - widespread industrial action


Workers in central government pressed ahead with strike action last month. The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) is in dispute with several departments over low pay.

Talks on last year's settlements dragged on until PCS members voted in January to begin a series of strikes. These are most widespread industrial action in the civil service for over 10 years.

The first action took place over 48 hours from 16 February, including stoppages in job centres, benefit offices and driving test centres. The 85,000 civil servants negotiate with each department separately. PCS is trying to coordinate action in the face of central government restrictions on pay levels.

At one point it looked as if the Department of Work & Pensions had reached agreement with its workers, but that fell through before the planned strike. The union said that the strike was well supported, with up to 90% of its DWP members involved in the action. The employer claims that few offices were closed.

The focus of the union's pay campaign has been on the low pay of some members. PCS believes they do not get the recognition they deserve, and are easy targets for politicians who want to cut public spending.

A report for the government proposing staff cuts of 80,000 across the whole of central government was leaked the weekend before the strike.